Use of Certification Credentials

NSPE Position Statement No. 10-1774
May 2016
Latest Revision: 
July 2018
NSPE Contact: 
Committee on Policy and Advocacy
Professional Policy Supported: 
10-Professional Practice

It is the position of NSPE that the importance of engineering licensure should not be minimized or diluted by the use of certification titles issued by private certification programs (e.g., certification programs offered by non-governmental groups or organizations).


The professional practice of engineering is regulated by state and territorial licensing boards.  These boards are created by the state and territorial governments for the protection of the health, safety and welfare of the public.  State engineering licensing boards examine the qualifications of engineering licensure applicants, issue jurisdictional licenses to those who meet legally established qualifications to practice professional engineering, and enforce the laws that govern engineering practice.  Importantly, state engineering licensure board have the legal authority to take disciplinary action against licensed professional engineers who engage improper, unethical or illegal conduct.  Penalties for such improper, unethical or illegal action may include censure, suspension or revocation of a professional engineer’s license.

Private certification programs are not a substitute for licensure.  In fact, private certification may have the effect of confusing the public’s understanding of the role of licensed professional engineers and blur the distinction between the practice of engineering by licensed professionals and other services, particularly when such private certification programs employ engineering titles in their private certification programs.  In addition, private certification programs lack the level of personal and professional accountability provided by the professional engineering licensure process as required and administered under state or territorial law.


1. To better separate private certifications from the licensure process, NSPE advocates that all jurisdictions should restrict the use of the title “engineer” to licensed professional engineers in their engineering licensure laws and regulations.

2. NSPE advocates that jurisdictions recognize that licensure is the first requirement to the practice of engineering.

3. To avoid confusing the public’s understanding of certifications with licensure and the role of licensed professional engineers, licensed professional engineers are encouraged to employ the PE designation as their primary credential designation, before the use of other professional, academic or certification designations.